My sermon series for the new year is "Relevance." It's funny, our worship leader asked if I had misspelled it. He asked if I meant "Reverence." I asked several colleagues of mine if they had any material on relevance. One responded by saying the church doesn't have to be relevant. She is counter-culture and will never be in the position of being relevant to the world. I feel as if she MUST be relevant. True, there will be those who will deny (and we're seeing that right now) the purpose of the church and its existence. But if it doesn't maintain some kind of relevance, why bother?
Several years ago I heard David Barton, a well-known historian, speak on the affect of the church on our government in our early years as a country. He explained that when a legislative matter came up, the state and federal legislature would ask the pastors of the nation what the Bible said on the matter. Pastors would research the issue, preach a sermon on the topic, then the body would debate and vote on the matter. We've come a long way since those days. Rarely, if ever, are the Scriptures searched to see if something should be enacted into law.
As I see it, the church has two problems. One is arrogance. I feel as if we have taken the same position as the Israelites. We are God's people. He loves us and us only. Leave us alone. We're drawing the circle smaller and smaller so no one else can get in. So, STAY OUT!!
The second problem I see is there is increasingly no difference between the world and the church. Although Scripture is very clear concerning our relationship with the world, we just can't seem to let go. We worship together on Sunday and act one way, then go to work on Monday and act another way. Some will lie and cheat and say, "It's just business." Others will forget their marriage vows and say "Oh, it's just a little teasing." Still others will drink until drunk and call it networking. And others will back-stab and step on their colleagues as they climb the corporate ladder.
By being relevant, we aren't changing the message of the gospel. We are just trying to make the gospel what it was intended to be in the first place....practical in everyday life. Instead of going to church, we need to BE the church. We need to not be afraid because God has promised us He would be with us. A good definition of godliness is always knowing the presence of God. His presence should make us bold.
I recently read about a lady who hosted Elizabeth Elliot. If you remember, Elizabeth Elliot is the lady whose husband was murdered by natives in South America. He and his team were trying to spread the gospel to those who had never heard it before. Instead, they met their demise. Later, Mrs. Elliot went back to those same people who had killed her husband and lived among them and taught them the gospel. This lady asked her what she could do to be a better wife, mother, and servant of Jesus. Mrs. Elliot thought for a moment and then replied, "Do the next thing."
We have no idea what the "next thing" is. But we can commit to trusting God knowing that He knows what the next thing is. In order to be relevant in this world, we must commit to doing what Jesus called us to be...salt and light. Light to disperse the darkness in this evil world. And salt to preserve the goodness of what we find around us.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9